Do dassies snore?
Aside from the usual photography gear, you need two additional things for taking star trail pictures: an intervalometer, which controls the length and intervals of exposures, and something to keep you busy while the camera does its thing. I only remembered one of the two.
I set off to Cedarberg Kloof from the adjacent Mountain Sanctuary Park with a camera, tripod, printed camera settings checklist and camping gear on my back. Cedarberg Kloof is an impressive kloof (gully) with sheer quartzite cliffs, over 60 metres high in some places. It’s one of a four on the Tonquani Farm; the others being the striking Tonquani Kloof with its 100 metre tall faces, Boulder Kloof and the smaller Red Gully. Water runoff in the area has eroded deep gullies creating interesting overhangs, tall spires and precariously stacked boulders. Bright green lichen contrasts the orange rock.
The hike is short. I pitch my tent at the MCSA campsite above the kloof. With it still being early afternoon, I have ample time to explore and find a good location for the shot. It’s safer to set up the tripod while it’s still light, especially when on the edge of a cliff. I find a rock spire that, with a little bit of imagination, looks like a rhino gazing up at the sky. To create the effect of circular light trails, the camera has to face south – this will make the stars rotate around a central spot. I mark the focal length and focus on the camera and return to camp, leaving the tripod behind.
Summer is not the best time of the year to photograph the sky, but at least it makes for a pleasant evening. Winter is usually better as there is less humidity and clearer stars.
It’s peaceful as the night sets in. The birds stop chirping. The incessant sun beetles pipe down. Even the wind calls it a day. It’s perfectly still. I am fortunate to sit and witness the quiet as the day turns to night.
Later that night, all noodled up and with nothing better to do, I go through the camera settings. Aperture – as big as my cheap 18mm-55mm kit lens will allow. ISO to 100 – as low as possible to reduce noise. Noise reduction – off. Auto lighting optimizer – off. White balance – set to ‘tungsten’.
It’s 9 PM and as the moon disappears behind the horizon, I set about the task of tracing my GPS track back to my tripod.
The intervalometer is set to take a four minute long exposure continuously for two hours. I will combine these exposures at a later stage using software to create one image with long star trails. Everything is set, now all I have to do is wait.
I keep my headlamp switched off so I don’t cast ambient light on the foreground. Quite close to the edge of the cliff, in the dark, the angle of the boulder that I’m on feels a lot steeper than it did during the day. Click. I imagine what would happen if I were to lose my footing and tumble down. I would be lying at the bottom of the kloof, the intervalometer would be diligently completing the task up here. Click. It’s not often that one sits still for two hours in the dark, with only oneself as company. In the pitch black the quiet plays tricks on the mind. One hears things. Click. As I sit here I swear I can hear something snoring. Or growling. No, snoring. The sound comes and goes. I can’t figure out if I’m actually hearing it or if my mind is creating the sound out of the silence. Click. I cannot place where it’s coming from. It could be something small, somewhere in the outcrop of boulders behind me. Or bigger, further away. Click. I flick through images of animals snoring in my mind. Surely, dassies do not snore. It would be a dead give away for night predators. Predators, there’s a thought. If house cats snore, bigger cats could too. Click. Without Google to answer my question I settle on ‘dassie’ and make a mental note to bring a friend next time. Silence.
My two hours are up. I am freed from the prison of my own company. Shot’s in hand I stumble back to my tent through the night.
And the answer to my question: ‘Do dassies snore?’ No. But they sing (sort of).
Trail Head Location (WGS84)
S25º 50’ 08.6” E27º 28’ 34.0”
Mountain Sanctuary Park Reception
S25º 49' 14.5" E27º 27' 37.4"
Mountain Sanctuary Park Gate
Other Trails At Destination
The network of gullies: Upper and Lower Tonquani, Cedarberg, Boulder and Red Gully are spectacular and one can easily spend two full days exploring.
Only attempt with an experienced member who knows the entrance and exit points to the gullies.
Total Distance : 4,2km
Trail Type : Return
Trail Markings : Good
Starting Altitude : 1459m
Summit Altitude : 1626m
Lowest Altitude : 1450m
Difficulty Rating : 3 / 10
Permit Required : Y
Dustbins : N
Water points : Y
Toilets : N
How To Book
Permits must be obtained before entering the property. Cedarberg Kloof bookings are handled by the Johannesburg Mountain Club.
MCSA - Johannesburg
Tel: +27 11 067 0326 (3-6pm weekdays)
Star trail camera checklist will be available soon.
Hiked 20 December